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ZEBO: Anything is possible now

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8 November 2014: Ireland's Simon Zebo after the final whistle during the Guinness Series, Ireland v South Africa match at the Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin (Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE)

8 November 2014: Ireland's Simon Zebo after the final whistle during the Guinness Series, Ireland v South Africa match at the Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin (Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE)

SPORTSFILE

8 November 2014: Ireland's Simon Zebo after the final whistle during the Guinness Series, Ireland v South Africa match at the Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin (Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE)

The things that make Simon Zebo such a five-star attraction as a rugby player, the free-spirit, the off-the-cuff high-risk plays, can make coaches uncomfortable.

The 24 year-old is lauded for what the man or woman in the street see in a highlight reel.

And so he should be.

He brings something different, the skill to make the improbable look natural as a born entertainer.

But professional rugby at the highest level requires an unswerving dedication to the basics, the mundane, hard-graft details Joe Schmidt demands.

There is simply no room for going off script. Ultimately, Zebo's change of outlook has and will make him a better player and, therefore, a more effective weapon for club and country.

Anyway, coach Anthony Foley's return-to-type style this season places a greater emphasis on old school Munster values, which are closer to what Schmidt is looking for than what Rob Penney put in place.

There are days, like Saturday, when the beautiful game has to be shelved for a clever, tactical approach underpinned by precision and graft.

This moves the burden of proof, according to laws laid down by Schmidt, to the kick-chase, positional play, ruck technique and work off the ball.

"The management have instilled a lot of belief, that we know what our goals are and we know how we are trying to play as a team," he said.

"It is just great to be involved in such a great squad because the belief is there and there is an atmosphere where we believe that anything is possible."

It is commitment to the basics that have been the building blocks to the stellar careers of Rob Kearney and Tommy Bowe.

"One or two of those moments in the air can swing the momentum of a game, really," he said.

"You saw Tommy going up and collecting and Kearns was dominant in the air. The air game and kick battle, we might have just edged them and we might have been able to get better positions on the field.

"That led to scores, so it was critical for us."

Zebo has to be commended for the way he has clearly applied himself to the fundamentals and the way in which he has got on with his work, despite falling behind Andrew Trimble and Dave Kearney last season.

He has kept his head down and his mind open.

Schmidt has no favourites, in the sense that you are rewarded only for what you do for commitment to the cause. There is no hiding place in the video review room.

EXAMPLES

Chris Henry and Trimble are the prime examples of how you can come from behind in the queue to get and keep the jersey.

Both the Ulster players gained from injury to others. Now, it is Zebo's turn in a profession devoid of sentiment.

What he showed against South Africa was appetite for the dirty work, applying himself to the plan in his ninth test match.

"They are just after beating the All Blacks and they have the class to beat anyone in the world, as they have just shown in their championship," he said.

"The fact that we were able to put it up to them and get on the better side of the scoreboard was something we are very proud of.

"It will build momentum going into the Georgia and Australia games."


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